I cannot give you comfort but I can give you home
I’ve knowingly made two decisions in my life very high on the scale of permanence: creating a marriage with Pickle, choosing her above all other beings that I’ve known and will know to share the whirlpools torrents ripples and shallows of my one life, and deciding to enter into something like a marriage with this place, above all other places I’ve known or will know, on our mother planet.
The day I married Pickle, I experienced a certainty in choice that I had never felt before. It’s my nature to leave every option on the table until the last moment; to seek perfection by being flexible and gathering all the gross and subtle data in the swirl of my gut where it can hopefully, by the last minute, reveal itself as an elegant pattern, a harmonious synthesis, a jewel made entirely of non-jewel parts. I act out this need in the most consequential and minute details of my life. By myself, it can be functional. I spend an entire day in a bookstore, feeling certain that I’ve let every possible novel pass through my subtle processing so that whatever I emerge with is a work that can change my life. It usually seems to be true. I find favorite novels, favorite songs, peak experiences; restlessly I discover beautiful spiritual traditions, magical musical instruments that contour to my hands and yearnings, forgotten state parks that have an inexpressible life to them not discernible from any descriptors but cascading off every gnarled early succession tree twisting towards the continual rearrangement of holy light.
I also find, somehow have found, the love of my life. Life with her can be absolutely excruciating and I know as simple as breath she is the specific ever changing human form of the places of the eternal fractal song that my form’s places of the eternal fractal song would choose to dance with again and again infinitely across all possible worlds. Pickle was the first big choice in my life I ever really fully without any reservation or questioning left to do made.
Life largely consists for me of sensing utopias, paradises, perfections, just outside the periphery. Sometimes I wake from a dream remembering a dream arrangement of an angelic composition synesthetically painting ultraviolet colors through my ears I think were made to adorn the sunsets one watches only from across the far shore reached after life and which I know I could spend an entire life trying in ecstatic futility to recreate even a single sound of only to glimpse it in the eyes of the last person I see before the light ceases to enter my brain.
The decision to enter into the somewhat nauseating modern ‘purchase’ of land – really, the walling off of some arbitrarily gridded non-separate section of a living being with orange surveyor flags, trading for some kind of dominion over it a quantity of imaginary digital sums originating ultimately, as all digital financial wealth, to Wall Street’s great culture- and biome- dessicating-and-paving-over engine – was not like marrying Pickle in any way except for the deep committed lifelong entangling it involves to a vast living being. In this case, my guts never really came to that unqualified ‘yes’ about it. I second-guessed the decision every day – both up until the day where we could still get out of the contract, and after, when there was really no ‘out’ I could discern anymore besides total collapse of my life. Like realizing I married the wrong person – which I did not in any way at all do; I love Pickle more and more with every ‘problem’ we tenderly walk into the light of our love – I felt a deep dread enter my guts. Breath became tight. All I could see were the thousand wrong choices I made. These were my failures – as a permaculturist, as someone trying to turn his life into a leverage point to change the systems of horror we are together bound in, as a hopeful community founder, as a systems thinker. I fucked up my one chance. Our one pool of savings from my only high-paying job, all those months of help and support from others believing in us, all the other places I turned down, all of Pickle’s arduous work and dedication and attachment to what we were making together – I messed it all up so bad, because this place could not be paradise, utopia, perfect, a jewel.
Naming the flaws isn’t the point. There are multiple endemic crucial cracks in the facets. I close my eyes and see all the places that inspired me to try and create this life and I open my eyes and see: this is not them.
Various spiritual practices have for periods of time swung me free from this spiral of eroding dread. My commitment to Pickle, who can love this place unconditionally (and who is one of my dearest teachers of unconditional love); my prayers to the land and occasional humbling of myself to utterly depend on it, only to be shocked by how generous it is to this ungrateful perfectionist who approaches it; my work in surrender, in humility, in music and blessings; my touching of the garden soil, the miracles of every corn and squash seed germinating in the raw forest soil; the gathering of beautiful beings together to make charcoal together as a tiny winking guidestar that dares to say we can slow this great coming planetary trauma with our own sooty hands even a little. I keep these practices going and sometimes I sing myself through the day, walking lightly upon their graces, pulling off ticks with a laugh, playing in the mud and water like a child, praying to the forest floor with a sharpened peasant hoe. Sometimes it is paradise, and then sometimes it collapses.
Last week something broke. My ears are my most intimate sense. I’m prone to feeling like the pop song playing in the grocery store was put there specifically to brainwash me, breaking me down into some kind of zombie slime mould beneath the onslaughts of ‘and days go by i’m hypnotized’ or this apparent new musical genre primarily about taking shots. Likewise, someone whispering in my ear sometimes feels a little bit like we should be wearing protection. Bird song feels personal. Crows tell my favorite jokes. Sound healing is one of the most powerful medicines for me. Living in a tent and almost exclusively outside, there is no refuge from sound. Music has always always been central to my life; and now, living outside, the neighbors’ amplified music finally really ‘got to me,’ and I broke.
Our neighbors – kind people by any signs we so far have from them – innocuously play the same funk music at the same time of day just about every day. This is not evil. Some people play louder music. Some people play music later in the evening. Some people play angry music loudly. Some people play music aggressively. This is none of that. It is someone trying like me to create their sense of a beautiful place in the world where they feel at home. They are like me humans building a nest, a place of belonging, a chill zone. They also wouldn’t have any way of knowing that the low frequencies carry a half mile back to the back of ‘our’ land, that we have no walls to hide behind nor windows to close, AC or fans to turn on, TV to turn up, or any real way of protecting ourselves from it. They definitely don’t know that around 5 each day, my shoulders start to tense up and I start to jump at every low frequency sound expecting the 1 hour loop of songs, of which my body has already committed every single bass hit of deep into a remembered muscular tension, to begin and hold me in its paralyzed thrall, rendering any attempt at reading, meditating, thinking, wandering in nature, or connecting with myself or my senses impossible. At this point, I jump in the car, burn fossil fuels, drive to nowhere close since there is nowhere close to drive. I flee my home, I give up on belonging, I throw away my nest, I lose the ability to find a way out.
What is all this?
On one hand: fossil fuels created a historically unprecedented human accessible energy gradient which inevitably like all uncontained energy gradients in scenario universe formed a homeodynamic impermanent self-maintaining system serving primarily to dissipate this energy concentration from higher to lower organization – like the continual explosion of a sun, a whirlpool off a rushing river, an algae bloom off a nitrogen spill, the dendritic nutrient and energy transports of a tree – the whole autopoietic industrial growth system horror formed around the energy gradient’s dizzying dissipative flow turning high concentrations of fossil energy (dark compressed time my great grandfather gave his lungs to pull from collapsing pits) into low concentrations of entropic dispersal (heat dissipation, waste, advertisements, the death of language, confusion, clear cuts, barrens, the ruined education systems, idle shopping, nights without coyotes) leaving us each helplessly pulled into contributing to this through our personal use of the asymmetrically apportioned quantity of the great energy glut we are charged to individually waste in order to try and always only fail to fill the horrible gaping absences in our lives that capitalism has stolen to monetize for its own self-maintenance; and so, we don’t have a village, community dances, stories of each other’s days, shared grief, love and closeness, places we can walk to, gardens we work together, love we give to each other, but instead have speakers mined from one country and sold by another to here where we can play music made mostly by computers that tries and mostly fails to fill the absences we feel, the great growing distances between the fast spreading stars of our soon winking out lives and between which we are erecting fences, just in case the universe isn’t expanding fast enough to make the distances in which we imagine we can finally find comfort. And so – I turn my speakers up too, watching through a mournful glaze as even the wild nature of the exploding jazz drummers I love gets shackled by the aggressive way I’m using their magic not to fly with them like a fellow witch but to try and fail to protect and isolate myself all the while rotting from within with spreading vengeful corruption like the once noble boar people in Princess Mononoke.
On the other hand: We don’t know what we are.
Tomorrow, it might all change. Love takes our dirty trembling hand again and walks our shaky legs to our neighbor’s front door where we are emptied out enough to listen because we have been purified by the glimpse of the only real hellfires there ever could be of the just-how-it-feels to succeed in becoming so terrifyingly separate. Our senses open to the unceasing paradise that always only and ever existed in the invisible nova fusion halfway between perceiving and perceived which for eternity sings the song of two and not-two. We realize our white-knuckled quivering fists ready to break themselves against themselves are clenching clay seed balls of forgotten trees that can grow the poles that frame the walls of the shape of the shelter of the original home for peace counting on us to remake it over and over and over, after genocide again, after clear cut again, after mass extinction again, after death of our loved ones again, after shuddering with the sickness of hatred again. Empty and open, the Fool barefoot off the cliff the dog of love barking, another story vine winding around us inevitably to senescence and strangle, to wither fall and compost, to grow a zero, a zero, zero, always coming home to ourselves.
Hollowed out we somehow share a beer with our neighbor who is like us always both sick and completely well, drowning and breathing, and offer our tattered second-hand drum to help that same old broken music in the quest of all music to remember for an endless fleeing moment the original wiggle.
One of the most powerful magics I have ever been taught by one of the most living beings I have ever met and to whom I am infinitely and lovingly indebted, I want to share here.
I don’t think there’s anything this can’t heal.
Directions: make a rattle out of anything.
Shaking it continually, sing these four lines in whatever melody fits it:
I love you
Please forgive me
… and repeat until done.